T breaks for computer users

I thought you might like to see this information, which has just been posted on one of the University Safety Adviser H&S nets.

Here’s some information on recent research into rest breaks for computer users: US research underlines value of r.4 of the DSE Regulations. A study undertaken by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has underlined the value of strategic rest breaks to reduce discomfort while working at display screen equipment. The findings, published in the journal Ergonomics, show that short, strategically spaced rest breaks can reduce eyestrain and musculoskeletal discomforts for video display terminal operators without decreasing productivity. When a normal daily schedule that included two 15-minute rest breaks, one in each half of the work shift, was supplemented with four 5-minute breaks spaced throughout the workday, the quantity and quality of work was comparable.

The workers consistently reported less eye soreness, visual blurring, and upper-body discomfort under the supplementary schedule. Adding short breaks through the day may therefore relieve cumulative discomforts from repetitive motions and static postures in a way that conventional break schedules do not. NIOSH, the Inland Revenue Service and the National Treasury Employees Union collaborated on developing and evaluating the supplementary rest break strategy, studying musculoskeletal discomforts at a tax document processing centre. For comparison, the data entry operators were asked by questionnaire to use a numerical scale to rate levels of discomfort in the hands, wrists,forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, neck, back, buttocks, and legs. They also were asked to rate levels of eye soreness, visual blurring, headache, cheerfulness, energy, tension, and fatigue. The results were statistically analysed, and mean ratings were obtained and compared.

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